Michael J. Chamberlain
Title of study - Ecological relationships among bobcats, coyotes, gray fox, and raccoons and their interactions with wild turkey hens.
Date of dissertation - December 1999
Throughout the southeastern United States, mammalian carnivore populations continue to evolve through dynamic ecological processes. My objectives were to summarize parameters for bobcats, coyotes, gray fox, raccoon, and opossum, subsequently relating these parameters to wild turkey depredation on the Tallahala Wildlife Management Area, Georgia-Pacific Corporation, and surrounding private lands during 1989-97. Dietary analysis indicated that bobcats were carnivorous throughout the annual cycle, whereas coyotes were seasonally omnivorous. Survival rates were great for all species compared to previous studies. Cause-specific mortality patterns indicated that incidental harvest and disease were the primary mortality agents for bobcats, coyotes, gray fox, and raccoon. My findings suggest that radiomarking opossums negatively affected survival. Male bobcats and raccoons maintained larger home ranges and core areas than females, whereas female coyote home ranges were larger than males and gray fox spatial use patterns were similar between sexes. Bobcats, coyotes, and gray fox appeared to partition habitats selected at the core area level, displaying differing selection across seasons among the species. Bobcats used 0-8-year-old pine stands and gray fox selected mature pine stands. Coyotes used a variety of habitats at all spatial scales, whereas raccoons consistently selected mature pine and hardwood habitats. Movement and activity patterns within species differed across the diel period, with greatest movement and activity occurring during crepuscular and nocturnal periods. Intraspecific spatial relationships and interactions differed by species, bobcats exhibited territoriality at the core area level, but raccoons did not. Coyotes and gray fox formed intraspecific pair bonds, but exhibited territoriality between groups and/or pairs. Bobcats and coyotes appeared to use avoidance mechanisms, as did coyotes and gray fox.
Habitat selection by wild turkeys hens during prenesting and nesting was a function of several factors, most notably vegetational characteristics within forested stands. My findings suggest that maintaining a large proportion of the landscape in mature habitats is important. Mature pine and mixed pine-hardwood stands were important for roosting sites. The proximity of a creek or water source appeared important in determining roost site selection. Examining utilization distributions between raccoons and wild turkey hens during nesting periods indicated extensive overlap in used areas. Habitat-specific instances of utilization overlap are discussed and species-specific management recommendations regarding habitat selection are provided.